So you’ve tuned into Netflix, expecting to watch some anime featuring massive monsters being clobbered by equally gigantic mecha when you selected Neon Genesis Evangelion from the trending bar. And so you did!
You probably weren’t expecting Neon Genesis Evangelion to also throw themes of love, depression and a whole buffet of various other mental hang-ups while dribbling a sauce of dwarf-star dense biblical themes and human evolution conspiracy theories on top of that, did you?
A masterpiece that redefined anime more than twenty years ago, the original run of Neon Genesis Evangelion still holds up pretty damn well in its current 4:3 retro aspect ratio state. It’s the series that paved the way for anime to be taken more seriously, helping to create a golden age for the art form in the late 1990s that included the likes of Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop and Serial Experiments Lain.
It’s also only a taste of what the franchise had to offer, as the years that would follow would see the Evangelion evolve and grow in wild new directions. Like that dating sim where Shinji creates a universe where Rei lives life as the pluckiest fast food employee around. Oh that scamp!
Subs or dubs?
Listen pal, I don’t mean to be the guy who scoffs to the max at your choice of audio, but for Neon Genesis Evangelion the original subtitled versions are the definitive takes here. The English translations lose way too much of the plot and finer details, so put on your spectacles, do the Gendo pose and learn to read, absorb knowledge and pay attention to the giant robot that’s about to bite the face of off an extra-terrestrial menace.
So where to next? Which Evangelion series should you watch if the original show left a Third Impact in your pants? These ones!
Neon Genesis Evangelion (Original series)
Hell, lets just take a moment here to acknowledge that some people have never watched a cult classic anime series featuring a fragile young lad whose estranged father asks him to use his crippling depression to fuel a giant bio-organic murder robot that houses the soul of his dead mother. Pretty standard Tuesday stuff if you live in Japan.
Quick crib notes on the plot: Humanity is screwed after a mysterious event known as the Second Impact melted the South Pole ice caps, tilting the axis of the planet and wiping out scores of humans in the process. Climate change was fast-tracked, the southern hemisphere drowned and billions of people became refugees overnight. Fun times!
On top of that, nigh-unstoppable kaiju known as Angels have begun attacking and Earth’s only salvation lies in children with issues who can pilot gigantic mecha. Possibly the most Japanese solution to an extinction event. Anyway, the original series takes up around 26 episodes of viewing time, but there’s a catch here.
Watch the original first 20 episodes if you can, then grab the director’s cut of episodes 21-26 to see just what Hideaki Anno had in mind before his own creation drove him mad with depression. Although before we even get to that, you may have one important question that’s worth answering.
End of Evangelion
With the original series done and dusted, there’s a chance that you might be feeling a tad bit unsatisfied by the ending. Truth be told, series director Hideaki Anno himself was none too pleased with how the show closed the curtain on his grand tale of WTFery, so he jumped back into the saddle and helped helm an alternative ending to the series.
No spoilers here, but if you’re looking for a finale that’s open to interpretation, artistic vision dialled up to 11 and is absolutely unapologetic in how it retains Anno’s ideas, then here’s the masterpiece of animation that you have to see if you want an ending that you’ll be thinking about for weeks after you see it.
Evangelion 1.0 You are (not) Alone
Thanos ain’t the only fella in purple who can reset reality with a snap of his fingers! Several years after the original series wrapped up, and Anno would return with a new take on the franchise that would reboot the original show. Alongside Kazuya Tsurumaki and Masayuki Yamaguchi directing, this new take would become known as the Rebuild of Evangelion.
Evangelion 1.0 You are (not) Alone takes the first six episodes of the 1997 series and while it remains largely the same only with better animation, some key differences can be found in the plot of this 2007 retelling. The numbering of Angels when they appear have been altered, Lilith’s appearance is moved up and Shinji’s character motivation has been altered as he accepts the responsibility of piloting an EVA unit after his interactions with Rei.
Evangelion 2.0 You can (not) advance
Much like the 1.0 film, this version of Evangelion retains the core plot of several episodes, it throws a curveball at audiences halfway through its story that takes the series in a wild new direction. While the characters of Asuka Shikinami Langley and Ryoji Kaji make their big screen appearance, it’s the inclusion of a new EVA pilot in the form of Mari Illustrious Makinami that takes Evangelion down a mysterious new detour on a well-travelled road.
New Angels appear, plot points are reworked and the overall theme here is to expect the unexpected as Evangelion 2.22 You can (not) advance plays around with more ideas, themes and yet another bonkers ending that’ll have you scratching bloody chunks of flesh out of your scalp as you try to make sense of it all.
Evangelion 3.0 You can (not) redo
If you thought the 2.0 film was a mad masterstroke of surprise and quality animation, then my friends you ain’t seen nothing yet. Evangelion 3.0 You can (not) redo doesn’t just tip the Evangelion apple cart over, it injects itself with pure gamma radiation, hulks out and then hurls said cart into the retcon sun as it runs around naked in a shopping mall of crazy editorial decisions.
A film that is impossible to understand in one sitting or even properly explain to the uninitiated, Evangelion 3.0 You can (not) redo is chaos perfected. It is a piece of animation that is sublime in its production, incredibly divisive within the Evangelion fan community and somehow even crazier than everything that came before it. And it’s still not the end of this massive anime binge in case you’ve been keeping track.
Seven years since the third film in the Rebuild of Evangelion series, and the final chapter in this tetralogy is still a long ways away. Evangelion 3.0+1.0 will be out in 2020 and if the previous flicks are any indication, it’s ending will probably see history repeat itself when fans attempt to make sense of everything.
Evangelion 1.11, 2.22 and 3.33 DVDs
In case you’re rushing off to the comments section to blast me for not mentioning these DVDs, fret not! I held back on this, because while the home media theatrical releases do add some new scenes and tighten up the animation further. More of an aesthetic difference than a slight reworking of the plot, tastes may differ here so it’s up to you really.
So there you go! If you’ve watched Neon Genesis on Evangelion and you need more of the good stuff, then the list above should sort you out. Happy viewing!
Last Updated: July 1, 2019